With four races left on the Formula One (F1) calendar, the sport looks forward to the Texan sun for the US Grand Prix (GP) after a spell of rain-covered races, including the championship deciding Japanese GP. The Dutch driver Max Verstappen has walked away from the Suzuka circuit as not only the race winner, but also as a two-time World Champion, pulling even further ahead of Ferrari rival Charles Leclerc with a massive 114-point difference.
“Last year, all the way until the last race is probably the worst kind of feeling, going into that last race… this year, I think, it’s just been very, very different in emotions from the start, all the way through to the year,” Verstappen said to F1 Media, reflecting on his emotions over the course of the 2021 and 2022 seasons.
“But you know, both [seasons] are beautiful and both are, at the end of the day, nice to experience because it’s nice also really to have always the pressure on and having to perform to your limit every single lap of the race,” he continued.
So with the championship decided, what more is there to look out for at the US Grand Prix?
It isn’t over for Verstappen, as the Dutch driver aims to be on par with Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel for the most wins — 13 — in a season in Austin, having already won his 12th race this season at Suzuka.
Red Bull expects that the Constructors’ Championship will be decided in their favour in Austin, with 619 points already on the table, making for a clean sweep this season for the Austrian-owned outfit. The only way Red Bull can be denied victory at the Circuit of The Americas is if Ferrari secures the top two steps on the podium.
With the Drivers’ Championship decided, the battle for second between Red Bull’s Sergio Pérez and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc is ramping up with only one point separating the two drivers. Following closely in a battle of their own for fourth is Mercedes driver, George Russell, currently in P4 and Carlos Sainz, five points behind in P5.
The McLaren and Alpine rivalry, in which the victor will receive the unofficial victory of midfield leader, is heating up with the French team leading by only 13 points, leaving the papaya-orange McLarens narrowly behind in fifth.
“They are in another league to us at the minute. I’m happy we’ve been able to fight them so far into the season, it shows we’ve done a very good job in other areas, in reliability, in maximizing our performances, taking opportunities, and not making mistakes,” Lando Norris said, expressing his awe of the work McLaren has done to keep the fight close despite the many difficulties they have faced.
“They must have done a lot worse than us in all of those areas to only just be ahead of us in the championship with the car they have. Not a surprise; it’s not a big fight at the minute because they are so much quicker, but we’ll keep trying and limit the points loss to them,” Norris continued.
Mercedes has announced an upgrade to their current 2022 W13 package that will debut in Austin, with hopes that it could deliver a win after an all but smooth season thus far. The eight-time Constructors’ Champions claim that the upgrade holds key information in the aerodynamic development of the 2023 W14 car. The Silver Arrows are still chasing a win to continue their streak of success each season, since the major rule change in 2014 that marked the beginning of the turbo-hybrid era.
Haas at home
The American-owned team Haas looks forward to its second race in front of a home crowd after the Miami GP debut at the beginning of the season. However, the team faces a bit of housekeeping due to the vacancy in their 2023 lineup; Mick Schumacher has still not been confirmed and rumours of Nico Hulkenberg’s return are echoing all over the paddock. The decision is set to be made in the lead up to the Grand Prix, where Haas has called a press conference to announce the way forward on Schumacher’s future.
What was dubbed “silly season” — due to all of the market rumours and contractual breaches — seems to have simmered down with the decision for the Alpine vacancy settled in favour of an all-French lineup, as Pierre Gasly joins Esteban Ocon for next season. Also, seeing Dutch driver Nyck de Vries in the AlphaTauri raises hopes of a Verstappen-De Vries Red Bull roster in the future for the Orange Army. The Alpine decision leaves current McLaren driver Daniel Ricciardo out of a seat for the coming season, as well as Canadian driver, Nicholas Latifi, who’s Williams is the last vacancy not decided upon.
IndyCar’s Alex Palou for Chip Ganassi Racing is set to make his F1 Free Practice 1 session (FP1) debut in Ricciardo’s McLaren at the US GP. Also making his debut is Formula Two driver Theo Pourchaire, in the same FP1 session, sitting in Valterri Bottas’ Alfa Romeo, which marks the beginning of his new position as reserve driver for the Sauber Academy driver.
Although the 2022 Drivers’ Championship decided in favour of Verstappen and the Constructors’ Championship will soon fall into the hands of Red Bull, there is still much more to look out for. From Mexico to Brazil and the exciting night skies of the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi, this season’s checkered flag is far from being flown.